20th Century Fox released Alien Quadrilogy, another
DVD box set featuring Alien and its offspring (Aliens, Alien3 and Alien
Resurrection), consumers who had purchased the solid 1999
box set The Alien Legacy were justifiably upset. But
a direct comparison of both sets reveals that there is still
much to be seen in the velvet darkness of deep space from the
points of view of four very different directors.
in outer space, where no one can hear the crew scream, Alien
finds the intergalactic cargo vessel Nostromo being rerouted
to a distant planet in response to a mysterious distress signal.
Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) realizes too late that
the signal was actually a warning. After visiting the planet,
the crew falls prey to a nightmarish organism whose "structural
perfection is matched only by its hostility," in the words
of Nostromo scientist Ash (Ian Holm). Only Ripley survives.
first of the set's gatefold box of nine discs contains both
the original and the new director's cut of Alien, Ridley
Scott's elegant, seminal thriller. With the exception of the "cocoon
sequence," the director's cut has few jolting additions.
Scott has deftly retooled certain sequences by trimming or
extending them, or, in a few cases, adjusting their color timing.
Cinematographer Derek Van Lint, BSC's legendary anamorphic
work has only been enhanced by the new director's cut, with
all the shadowy contrasts intact. Both versions of the film
feel fresh and retain much of the mystique and shock value.
Both picture transfers are exceptional, as are the audio tracks
(available in both new 5.1 Dolby and DTS mixes). Though earlier
home-video transfers were solid, this new platter is simply
outstanding, offering a crisp, startling presentation of this
one also offers a choppy audio commentary by Scott, Weaver
and too many other cast and crew members. Disc two offers an
extensive package of featurettes entitled The Beast Within:
The Making of Alien. This includes a seemingly endless
archive of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes,
photos and other extras.
three features two cuts of James Cameron's harrowing three-ring
circus Aliens, shot by Adrian Biddle, BSC. In the film,
Ripley awakens from 57 years of hyper-sleep and is asked to
find some colonists who've gone missing on the planetoid where
the alien was discovered. A reluctant Ripley and a band of
Marines trek to the site and find the colonists either eviscerated
by the creatures or cocooned to await fertilization.
disc features Cameron's 154-minute director's cut, which was
previously released on laserdisc and DVD, and the 137-minute
theatrical-release version, which has not been available on
DVD until now. The special edition is superior on a narrative
level, but both versions offer consistently solid picture transfers
of Biddle's icy work. However, there is no noticeable difference
in picture quality between this transfer of the director's
cut and the 1999 DVD transfer. The sound mix, however, has
been bumped up to first class with a decidedly rangier 5.1
three is rounded out by an informative commentary shared by
Cameron and several cast and crew members. The extensive supplements
for Aliens actually spill over to fill disc four; the
soup-to-nuts package, entitled Superior Firepower: The Making
of Aliens, includes an overwhelming amount of information
and production history and features interviews with many cast
and crew members.
five presents David Fincher's somber and occasionally frustrating
mood piece Alien3, which finds a shocked Ripley on a
planet that's home to a lice-ridden penal colony. Unfortunately
for the prisoners, Ripley's spacecraft was infected with an
alien and a new organism has been spawned. With no weapons
at their disposal, the men quickly fall prey to the creature's
rumors about Fincher's three-hour cut of Alien3 have
flourished, no such cut apparently exists. What is presented
alongside the 114-minute theatrical cut is a fascinating glimpse
of what might have been: a 144-minute work print that features
some storyboard sequences and occasional subtitles in lieu
of missing dialogue. The story elements essentially match those
of the theatrical version, but the expanded narrative allows
more space for character development (though it tends to focus
too much on the prisoners). The picture and sound transfer
of the theatrical cut is very similar to that of the 1999 DVD,
with cinematographer Alex Thomson, BSC's grim, industrial images
included on disc five are deleted scenes and an audio commentary
by Thomson, film editor Terry Rawlings and other crew members,
who shed interesting light on the difficult relationship between
Fincher and Fox. Supplements for Alien3 run over to
disc six and include The Making of Alien3, another incredible
package that documents all aspects of production; its emphasis
is on the origins of the story and some of the ill-conceived
ideas that sparked disagreements between Fox and the filmmakers.
seven presents Jean-Pierre Jeunet's free-wheeling Gothic pageant Alien
Resurrection, which is set 200 years after Ripley's death.
However, the company that deliberately put Ripley in jeopardy
has succeeded in cloning her. It's a very different Ripley
- part human and part alien.
slick, colorful cinematography of Darius Khondji, ASC, AFC
has a nightmarish, otherworldly quality that has been faithfully
translated to DVD with this terrific, sharp new transfer. Included
on this platter is a special-edition cut that adds a memorable
opening sequence but otherwise rarely differs from the theatrical
cut, as well as deleted scenes and an informative commentary
by Jeunet and members of the cast and crew. Disc eight contains One
Step Beyond: The Making of Alien Resurrection, which, like
the other supplement packages, provides an exhaustive collection
of interviews, facts and features.
the wealth of material that precedes it, disc nine is this
box set's crown jewel. Chock-full of dozens of theatrical trailers
and ad campaigns for the films, it also features a new documentary
on Alien, the Bob Burns Alien Collection stills,
and the Dark Horse Alien Comics gallery. Included, too,
are extensive script-to-screen DVD-ROM features and both of
the "Laserdisc Archives" from the benchmark laserdisc
releases of Alien and Aliens in the early 1990s.
These incredibly extensive archives include hundreds of stills,
lost footage and interviews, and go far beyond what most of
this box set's new supplements achieve.
its staggering number of supplements and the generally improved
picture transfers, Alien Quadrilogy is a must for serious
fans of these films. The Alien Legacy was a commendable
effort, but this box set offers the definitive presentation
of this tragic saga and serves its doomed heroine quite well.